João Gilberto

Countless are those whose lives have been changed by your music over the past half century, and countless more will thrill and delight to your songs in decades to come. In a world of news cycles collapsed to mere minutes and the latest cultural phenomena forgotten as quickly as they arise, your artistry is of a different order: at once popular and avant-garde, of the moment and ageless, Brazilian and global, and, indisputably, of a rare quality that will stand the test of time. Listeners all around the world rejoice at the opening chn-chn-chn of “Doralice” and your ethereal singing in “Vivo Sonhando (Dreamer).” You are Brazil’s beloved global ambassador of musical culture. After moving from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro as a teenager, you succeeded in conjuring up a new sound able to communicate Brazil’s special flair like no other, a sound improbably invented in friends’ tiled bathrooms serving as acoustic laboratories. Soon, young musicians around Brazil were swapping your recordings and imitating your beats. Your first album, Chega de Saudade, would reach the radio stations of the United States and popularize this bossa nova, or new style. In 1964, we heard for the first time “The Girl from Ipanema,” a shimmering postcard describing a fresh vision of your home country for the world. The following year, Getz/Gilberto became the first jazz record to win the Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year. And decades later, you would be recognized with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for making music of exceptional quality and historical significance. You introduced to the world the rhythms of contemporary Brazilian jazz, inspiring not only musicians and musicologists but legions of admirers of Brazilian culture, including many here at Columbia. We celebrate through your achievements the rich ties of Columbia University to Brazil, dating back at least to 1906 and the University’s award of a different honorary degree to your countryman Joaquim Nabuco, the abolitionist and diplomat who established Brazil’s first embassy in America. Today, that enduring relationship is being energized and reinvented by the Columbia Global Center in Rio de Janeiro. For creating bossa nova, or your melodic voice able to convey quiet optimism and a love of life, for songs as deeply evocative as they are instantly recognizable, and for uniting people the world over through your music, we are proud to present you with the degree of Doctor of Music, honoris causa.